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May 2024

Military Appreciation Month: Fiscal Fitness on Deployment




Build a budget and leverage military benefits


Manage finances remotely


Return home with a secure financial foundation




Build a budget and leverage military benefits


Manage finances remotely


Return home with a secure financial foundation

When you’re deployed, life doesn’t hit the pause button back home. Those bills keep rolling in. Sigh.

Overseas or stationed somewhere else, you’re still responsible for household expenses like rent, car payments, student loans, credit cards, or mortgages. It's on you to stay on top of it all. 

But here’s the good news: the team here at Atlantic Bay wants to help you with your “fiscal fitness.” And we’re not talking about “liquidity lunges” or “diversification deadlifts.” 

This Military Appreciation Month, we've got your back when it comes to managing your money and maximizing those deployment benefits. Because the last thing you need while serving your country is money worries weighing you down (“debt dumbbells,” if you will).  

Prepare Before Deployment  

Taking these proactive steps before your deployment will ensure a smoother financial ride for you and your loved ones back home. Here are some key actions to check off your list before you head out: 

Take Care of Your Bills 

Peace of mind is priceless, especially during deployment. Set up automatic payments for essential bills (rent/mortgage, utilities, car payments) or designate a trusted friend or family member to manage them in your absence. That way, you can focus on your day-to-day duties without worrying about missing payments or late fees. 

And remember, payment history makes up 35% of your FICO® credit score.

Late payments make the biggest impact on your score.

So, think proactively about your bills, including how your family will handle them and ways to cut them down, before you deploy.

Consider Naming a Financial Power of Attorney  

 On the flip side, if you’ll be gone for some time and will have no access to handling any aspects of your finances, drawing up a Power of Attorney (POA) is an option available to you.  The POA is a legally binding document that authorizes another person who understands your financial goals (your “agent”) to act on your behalf to handle affairs if you're unable to do so yourself. Some of the actions they’ll be able to do for you include:  

  • Paying bills 

  • Handling banking or insurance 

  • Selling property 

  • Signing contracts 

  • Accessing bank accounts 

  • Buying or selling real estate 

Additionally, there are three types of POAs: Limited, Durable, and General, with each having their own advantages depending on your needs and timeline. Your local Military Legal Assistance Office (aka "Military Onesource,” a division of the U.S. Department of Defense) can help you prepare your POA.

Don’t Overspend Before Deployment 

Much like it’s unwise to make big purchases days before closing on a home, we could say the same thing for deployment.

We want to see Taylor Swift live as much as the next mortgage-centric blog, but we suggest resisting the urge to splurge on unnecessary buys before leaving. Overspending is a one-way ticket to unnecessary debt and stress during your time away. Plus, the money could be better used to bolster your savings, pay down those bills, or create a post-deployment nest egg.  

Budgeting for Deployment  

A well-planned, well-thought-out budget can help you manage expenses effectively, meet your financial obligations on your timeline, and keep your saving goals on track by the time you return home. 

Create a Pre-Deployment Budget  

Creating a budget from scratch isn’t the most fun thing you could be doing, but it is important, especially with the given circumstances. With your remaining time, start by jotting down the income sources you’ll have on deployment. We’re talking about any pay, entitlements (like the Family Separation Allowance or Hardship Duty Pay), disability, or allowances you expect to be collecting. And make note of all your current expenses at home, plus any potential base fees as well.  

Account for fixed expenses, variable costs, and savings goals.

And while a deployment often comes with additional income, it'll be imperative to approach this financial windfallA sudden and substantial monetary gain (i.e., tax returns, inheritance, lottery).financial windfallA sudden and substantial monetary gain (i.e., tax returns, inheritance, lottery). carefully. You didn’t splurge before deployment, so don’t start now. Consider living off your pre-deployment income and using the extra funds to pay down debts, contribute to savings goals, or boost your retirement investments.  One smart strategy could be to set up a separate account specifically for deployment earnings, allowing you to earmark those funds for more meaningful purposes and let them collect interest.  

Track Your Expenses While You’re Gone 

With all this budget talk, we should also mention that financial planning is, and should be, a very fluid thing. In other words, your budget shouldn’t be something you set and forget, at least not over an extended period of time.  

If possible, regularly monitor your spending against your budget.

Monitoring your spending habits might even reveal “hot spots” where you can cut back and save even more money during deployment. 

And these days, there are thousands of ways to track expenses. You can use a simple spreadsheet, budgeting apps, or online banking tools that offer expense tracking features. Choose a method that works best for you, your family, or a partner if they’ll be handling most of the tracking. 

Leverage Military Benefits for Savings  

Take advantage of the many government savings plans available to our country’s service members. For example, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Savings Deposit Program “was established to provide members of the uniformed services serving in a designated combat zones the opportunity to build their financial savings,” according to their official website.

Amounts up to $10,000 may be deposited, earning 10% interest annually.

Save a portion of your salary pre-tax, meaning you won't pay income taxes on the deposited amount or the accrued interest. Program members must be receiving Hostile Fire Pay, along with a few other qualifications. 

But you can also leverage your savings with a Federal-Government-sponsored Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Like a civilian 401(k) retirement savings plan, a TSP lets you contribute a portion of your salary toward your retirement, with the government matching a percentage of your contributions (up to your plan’s limit). Essentially free money toward your future, and the TSP offers several investment options to suit your risk tolerance and financial goals. 

And the TSP also offers Roth TSP investment options. As you may know, your money grows tax-free with Roth contributions, but qualified withdrawals in retirement are also tax-free. This could be a fantastic strategy for younger service members with retirement being so far away. Talk to your legal and tax professionals for further assistance. 

Communication is Key 

An open and honest conversation with your partner before deployment is key. Beyond the budget, it's about establishing a clear financial roadmap for both of you – before and after your return. Here are a few meaningful topics you could discuss: 

  • Budget Breakdown: Share or create that pre-deployment budget with your partner, outlining income (deployment pay, allowances) and expected expenses while you’re gone. 

  • Financial Responsibilities: Again, determine who will handle what bills and financial tasks while you're away. It’s good to be on the same page.  

  • Access to Accounts: Ensure your partner has access to essential accounts (checking, savings) and knows login information for online banking or bill-pay services. 

  • Emergency Plan: Discuss how to handle unexpected financial emergencies that might arise during deployment. 

Having these necessary, albeit humdrum, conversations upfront will leave you both feeling confident and prepared for the road ahead.  And speaking of conversations, our team would love to help you with your mortgage, homebuying, or financial planning before AND after deployment. Military Appreciation Month is just the start; we’ve got more resources to help you achieve your homeownership dreams, heroes!